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How to Strengthen Systems for Poverty Alleviation in Developing Countries!

Five key Levers of infrastructure with allied process are essential to a support communities make process on their own.

Photo of Geoffrey Ferster, Ph.D.
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 The Initiative

There is intentional Linkages among the five Levers - with Interoperability at all levels (systems working together). Building and implementing this robust New Scaffold – as a pilot in two countries over three years – will strengthen five district level systems and direct resources to selective ‘best practice’ in agriculture, health, water-sanitation, environment and education, with community empowerment and participation – to significantly benefit targeted populations in the communities. 

Select two countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Five Levers with main highlights and examples to get the project functioning have be specifically adapted for the BridgeBuilder Challenge from my book, The Sincere Veneer, How the Development Industry got off the Rails and How to Get It Back on Track. (

The strength of this proposal is its Multiplier Effect. It provides a model for the New Scaffold and processes, when shown to be effective, can be replicated over and over – thus not only assuring effective use of current funding – but also preserving funding that can be used to expand future programming.

Lever One: International Institutional Support – International Technical Assistance Service.  

[A] On-going Review of ‘best practices’ and technologies appropriate for targeted communities and populations. Specific examples to address: (i) Women small-holder farmers’ heads of households in on-going skill improvements, land tenure rights, labour savings tools, post-harvest loss, co-operative buying and selling, small scale businesses. [Examples,Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa, HarvestPlus, International Center forAgricultural Research, One Acre Fund for Sub-Saharan African WomenSmall-holders, Farm Africa. Also, country specific example including some inthe BridgeBuilder Challenge may quality as 'best practices andtechnologies. The CopenhaganConsensus - Post 2015 Consensus used allsectors and other work/reports.]  (ii) Maternal and Child Health – community support District level teams’ monthly visits for the set of activities: baby weighing, nutritional advice, Expanded Program of Immunization, Vitamin A supplements, and family planning.   (iii) Education – pragmatic actions to reduce cultural and economic barriers for all girls to attend and complete, at least, primary school. Include families of landless peasants and child labourers. Add basic sanitation facilities and (where possible) water at all schools. (iv) Water-Sanitation – Environment (rural and urban based incl. slums): several projects proposed in the BridgeBuilder Challenge could become ‘best practices’ and appropriate technologies for wider applicability and to 'scale-up' in the pilot countries and districts. 

[B] Develop low-cost methodology in planning, information systems for decision, to manage and monitor the activities – and independent evaluation. 

[C] In Lever Three: Direct collaboration with and provide support to the National Technical Assistance Services in designing the country project. Share ‘best practices’ and technologies, those in above [B]; and provide ‘on call’ support to country, districts and communities during implementation phases. 

[D] Adapt ‘best practices’ and technologies for anti-corruption measures applicable in countries. These will be used in Lever Four: Curbing Corruption

Lever Two: National Ministries of Finance  

[A] Strengthen and bring greater transparency to all Ministry of Finances activities. Review and streamline to make cost-effective procedures for contracting national budgeted activities and align with donor agencies. Review and update procedures for accountability using funds going through Ministry of Finance accounts and implement these procedures.  

[B] All money entered to Ministry of Finance accounts with timely disbursement to districts and communities – with full accountability. Adopt new procedures to allow funds to ‘bypass’ Ministry of Finance and go directly to pilot districts and communities. Note: Lever Two [A] and [B] have close linkages to Lever Four: Curbing Corruption.

Lever Three: Establish an Integration and Coordination Board within the National Planning Ministry  

National Technical Assistance Service (as per Lever One [C]) – works in full partnership with the International Technical Assistance Service to design the country project – share ‘best practices’ and technologies (and where necessary adapt for local conditions), low-cost methods (as per Lever One [B]), be ‘on call’ support to the country, districts and communities during implementation phases.

Lever Four: Curbing Corruption:   Links to all Levers. 

[A] Adapt ‘best practices’ and technologies for anti-corruption measures within the country. These will be determined for the country from a selected list assessed in Lever One.

[B] The government’s ‘Highest’ Corruption Board, Ministry of Finance and project team work with Tax Justice Network for Africa, International Corruption Hunters Alliance, The Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (a World Bank and UN anti-money-laundering effort), the US Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, international banks and other governments to recover stolen funds. Note: Some of the recovered money from both Lever Four [A[ and [B] anti-corruption measures and initiatives go to the Ministry of Finance specifically as added resources directed to the pilot project activities.

Lever Five: Avant-Garde Cadre for Sustained Action: 

The Ministry of Finance, working with the International and National Technical Assistance Services and departments establish a low-cost database among a worldwide movement of people, institutions, organizations (e.g. Non-Governmental Organizations) corporations, other (e.g. universities) who provide support the pilot districts (with a multiyear commitment).   (i) Each Avant-Garde Cadre to be approved by an international and National Quality Assurance Board.   (ii) ‘Adopt and Twining’ to pilot districts – especially for operational costs ‘bypassed' directly to the district and communities as specified for activities (linked to Lever Two [B]).

The New Scaffold Needs New Intellectual Infrastructure and Leadership

Main Principles: 

  • Both the International Technical Assistance Service (Lever One) and National Technical Assistance Services (Lever Three) will be comprised of: Solid teams of integrated technical specialists – Understand communities and urban slums, are ‘knowledge and technology centers’– Collaborate with local and regional officials to low-cost planning, include develop and implement practical initiatives and ‘best practices’ – who attention to operations and management, monitor and selectively modify initiatives. 
  •  Transformational change by ‘keeping the pressure’ on leadership and decision-making processes – use several countervailing 'loci' of power and sources of finance like Avant-Garde funding (Lever Five), multinational agencies, journalists and scrupulous academics.
  •  Genuine local empowerment will require a ‘social contract’ or ‘partnership in support of self-reliance’ for people in their community in districts, rural areas and urban slums to help and support their schools, health centers – tap local knowledge and efforts, some people to be paid or given in-kind remuneration (e.g. tuition for their primary school children, allocation for basic medicines.)

How to Involve Local Leaders in Development Projects

  • Do not assume all current local leaders are not ‘New Leaders’ and adaptable to the New Scaffold.  Clearly local leaders understand the cultural nuances!    
  • Local Empowerment will generate leadership and advocacy and self-reliance!
  • Sustain ‘knowledge exchange’ adds vigorous capital and timely modifications!


Who Benefits?

The selected countries will benefit from the strengthened systems and subsystem to further develop and implement donor and national resources on a wide range of projects – from the national economy, selected exports, Foreign Direct Investment and projects designed for regional, district level and local economic growth. The pilots aim will be scalable, viable and sustainable.

Indeed, this project will be adapted, modified and scaled-up in phases to districts the selected project countries. The model when shown to be effective and with the use of resources – can be expanded to other countries in Sub-Saharan, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Once the New Scaffold get broad networking – these projects in multiple countries, with further modifications, new ‘best practices’, system reforms – will be easily communicated to decision makers and managers at district level and in communities. 

The pilot project in each of the two countries will have five ‘control’ districts which will not have the ‘best practices’, technology innovation, systems and sub-systems improvements. The three-year measure of benefits will focus on the differences for the piloted and ‘control districts on main target populations of: (i) women small-holder farmers heads of household, (ii) for maternal and child health, (iii) children, especially girls in and completing primary education, (iv) household’s and community water, sanitation availability, improved environment and health related indices, (v) child labor and landless peasants, (vi) household and local economic growth, and (vii) examples of specific systems and subsystems improvements in all Levers.

Intermediate Testing and Modifications

The pilot New Scaffold and processes will be designed for stepwise systems, subsystem, procedural, process changes and training of staff and empowered members of the community. If at any stage of adopting respective changes face substantive constraints or need modifications – these will be identified by the government, National and International Technical Assistant Services and specific adaptations made. Indeed, the ‘systems and process’ monitoring are integral during the whole three-year project. These proactive management measure will lead to an ever more pragmatic New Scaffold and process can be scaled-up in the piloted countries and replicated in other countries.

Support Needed to Realize the Idea to Fruition

This Initiative will need technical support from a recognized international ‘knowledge based’ organization with a Development foci, universities and consultants in the selected piloted countries to:  (i) Select the pilot countries;  (ii) Be familiar with the selected government laws, regulations and procedures, district level decentralization, bureaucracies and community participation; (iii) Experience with methodologies vetting ‘best practices’ and technologies in the sectors of agriculture, health, water, sanitation and the environment, basic information systems, low-cost planning, financial, and accountability systems. Direct working with BridgeBuilding Challenge and OPENIDEO colleagues – and potential connection to other funder networks – would be most welcome at all phases of this project.

Project Uniqueness

I have benefited from distinct privileges, for over four decades, working directly at field level with a wide range of international and national professional colleagues and people in communities in multiple Sub-Saharan and Asian countries, and the Middle East – and am familiar with the numerous examples of projects and initiatives. This project is designed uniquely with foci on the key Five Levers of the Development Industry to benefit countries targeted populations.

This gives the unique advantages to address pitfalls and failures of many decades of projects. Another unique advantage and strength of this project is its Multiplier Effect. By implementing and then replicating a robust and effective New Scaffold infrastructure and process model for projects – with funding from international development agencies, governments, organizations and philanthropists – designed and implemented to directly benefit people and communities worldwide. Indeed, all these unique advantages will be major achievements for the BridgeBuilding Challenge, OPENIDEO, the Development Industry, countries, people and communities worldwide.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about you

Geoffrey Ferster studied at the University of Minnesota (B.A., M.S.), the London School of Economics and Political Science, and Cornell University, where he earned his Ph.D. in Agricultural and Managerial Economics, with a focus on land and regional economic development. He later received appointments at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, University of Exeter, UK, (senior lecturer, applied health economics in the National Health Service) and with World Health Organization in Indonesia’s Ministry of Health, which enabled him to work with a wide variety of professionals, bureaucrats and villagers. As an independent consultant to the World Bank, The Netherlands Development Co-operation, USAID, AusAID, the Harvard Institute of International Development, and United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), Ferster served in Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Malawi, Nepal, Palestinian Authority, Sierra Leone, and Turkey. ( and

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Other


Join the conversation:

Photo of eldy wullur

Hello Geoffrey,
This problem is being experienced by our region, and this solution I think is very appropriate to be applied. I will learn more. Thank you for the information.

Photo of Geoffrey Ferster, Ph.D.

Greetings Eldy,
I appreciate your keen interest, comments and understanding this multipronged problem is experienced by countries in your regions. Getting these five key Levers functioning with interoperability at all level using concrete cost-effective methods - will significantly reduce poverty and improve level of living standards in countries, districts, communities and for people. After the Levers function with related systems function in two countries - the Levers and systems can be appropriately adapted and applied in regions and countries. Pleased to dialog: Geoffrey@